Ed. Note: Good Yarns is a whenever-we-feel-like-it column in which our friends from the world of weed tell stories from the good old days. Or the bad old days, as it may be. Our first tale, “Nooners and Narcs,” told by Washington Bud Company’s Shawn DeNae, is a rollicking tale of sex, drugs, and newsprint. Enjoy!
I thought I was coming home for some “nooner nookie.” The kids were at day care and work duties were on hold for the lunch hour. It was summer 1987; the day was sunny, I was looking hot, and my husband, Bill, and I had plans.
Walking toward our front door, with my 4” red-hot heels clicking the sidewalk as my red checkered dress swirled around my bare legs, I got an inkling something was off. There were unknown cars in the driveway. Sure enough, I opened the door to find my husband on the sofa talking calmly with the lead detective from the Campbell County, Wyoming sheriff’s office. Sherriff Byron Odekoven had just won a hard-fought election by running on the newly minted ‘Just Say No’ to drugs campaign. He was out for headlines and we were about to make him some.
It was a small town, so Bill and I knew Sherriff Odekoven. Bill had framed his house out on the golf course and I’d met him in my role as the one of the town’s local radio and TV personalities. Regardless, his deputies were hauling our plants from the basement to a van outside the back door. The scale, grow lights, and fans were confiscated that afternoon, along with any little scrap of paper that might contain evidence of trafficking. But they didn’t take us in.
The next day, the front page of the Gillette Gazette featured a large photo of our flowering plants with the Deputy holding up the original Marijuana Grow Bible by Jorge Cervantes. The headline read “Police Nab Pot Plants.” The Sheriff got his headline and we got a lawyer.
The inspiration for the bust was a call from our babysitter to her mother. She smelled something real funny coming from the locked door to the basement. Mom called the new ‘Narc Your Neighbor’ Crime Stoppers line, which prompted a look at our power bill. It was twice what our neighbor used and, based solely upon that discovery, they came ready to bust down the door.
Our attorney prepared us for the worst. We could lose our children. We could serve jail time. We could be deemed criminals for the rest of our lives. He did mention the outside chance that the bust may have relied too much on the Crime Stopper’s tip, but the evidence was indisputable and, he reminded us, “this is not Hollywood,” so we shouldn’t expect a good outcome. We were told to stay in town. Do not leave the state. Do not pass GO.
My mom was put on alert that she may have to take the kids if we found ourselves in jail. She went into near hysteria and encouraged us to get to Canada where we have family. Instead, we hooked up the boat and went to the lake for few days of camping.
We told our friends to avoid us, as we figured we were being tailed. Our home became a local attraction, as strangers rolled past slowly in their cars, fingers pointed at ‘the pot house’. My work told me to lay low and not bring further attention to them.
Ironically, the reason we began growing was to reduce the risk of being busted. Bill had been the region’s deep cover dealer for several years, bringing weight up from Colorado and Arizona. His last trip south had ruined the deal; over $15,000 in cash was delivered to his ‘connection’ who then never showed up with the ganja. We figured we should scale back, grow enough for us and few close friends, and raise our boys in safety.
This was in the very early days of indoor growing, so there were no hydro stores. Anything needed to grow was obtained via mail order, and came in unmarked packaging. I remember Bill being so excited when he found a High Times Magazine in a Denver book store! That was the key to resources not easily found in our little redneck town of pot lovers.
Our first few crops were full of webbing and crawling with bugs. The buds crackled in the bowl as spider mites popped under the flame. The plants were from random seeds gathered from previously cleaned weed. (Back then you had to remove the stems and seeds before you could twist one up.) We did know to look out for males, but weren’t sure how! Sinsemilla pot—the big, fluffy flowers produced by the female cannabis plant when it’s kept from being pollinated—was only just becoming a thing to aspire to in mid-80s Wyoming.
Weeks and then months went by as our lawyer made court appearances on our behalf. The few times we were summoned, I recall the judge lecturing the prosecuting attorney that they had to provide some case law to justify the original search. Crime Stoppers’ tips were just that—tips, not evidence. The difference in the electrical bill between a single person and a family of four was also suspect. Where was the case law to support a search based upon electricity usage?
The judge, Jeremy, was newly appointed and dating Bill’s ex-wife. He knew we were being used to make an example. But he turned the Sheriff’s office into the example. Our last appearance in court was in November 1987, in which he suppressed the evidence against us based upon an unjustified search. We walked out of there free to go and I remember feeling pissed they wouldn’t give us back our equipment or Jorge’s book!
But because our reputations were tainted, we felt we had to move. We considered Albuquerque, San Antonio and Seattle. After visiting Seattle, we fell in love. We moved in October 1988. With no ‘connections’ in Seattle (imagine that), we set up the grow rooms again in ’89. We had to stop again in ’93, but that’s a story for another time.
Eighteen years would pass before we established Washington Bud Company as a brand, and 24 years before we had a state license to grow. Pretty crazy to think that it all started back in our basement in Wyoming. It’s been quit the adventure, and I still have the same red shoes!
Shawn DeNae is a founding member of The Cannabis Alliance, writes for Marijuana Venture Magazine’s Living the Dream series, acts as liaison to the WSLCB and state legislators. She is an activist for cannabis reform at every given opportunity. You can reach her via social media @WashingtonBudCompany / #WashingtonBudCo or www.wabudco.com1987 Bust_NewsReports